Energy Policy

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 9th March 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Reid George Reid None 9:15 am, 9th March 2006

The first item of business this morning is a debate on motion S2M-4074, in the name of Alex Johnstone, on future energy policy.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 9:16 am, 9th March 2006

It is with a sense of déjà vu that we find ourselves standing—or sitting—in this room once again. We must also be experiencing déjà vu because the Conservatives have chosen to debate energy so soon after our last debate on the subject.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No, thank you, not at the moment.

The fact that we have brought to the chamber again the issue of Scotland's future capacity to generate electricity is a reflection of the sense of urgency that we feel about the matter.

It is essential that we are able to guarantee affordable and available supplies of electricity in future. That is essential not only to the Scottish economy, which cannot function without regular power supplies, but to ensuring that fuel poverty does not become a bigger and bigger problem for the least well-off in society and those who are least able to protect themselves. For that reason, we are trying to instil a sense of urgency in the debate on how Scotland generates enough electricity to meet its future requirements.

Through our Executive, we have set a target of 40 per cent of electricity being generated by renewables by 2020. Despite the difficulties with grid connections, there is no shortage of applications to deliver on that. However, too many people in Scotland and in the chamber have accepted that 40 per cent target without considering how we will generate the remaining 60 per cent. The truth is that the lifespan of many of our power stations will expire before the 2020 deadline is reached. Unless we make radical decisions now, there will be a shortfall and all the ensuing problems will arrive on our doorstep.

We have raised the subject for debate again today because too many of the decisions that have to be made, particularly those on our large generating capacity, such as nuclear or new coal-fired stations, will take a long time to pass through the public consultation and planning processes. If we do not act immediately, we face the serious danger that that replacement capacity will not be available when it is needed, which is when the existing stations that they are to replace are being decommissioned. That is why we have brought the issue back to the floor of the chamber so soon.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

Does the member accept that the market has begun to take action already with, for example, Scottish Power's decision on Longannet power station?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

The decision to install the scrubbing equipment at Longannet will lengthen the lifetime of that power station, but it will not extend its lifespan significantly beyond the time limits that we are discussing today. It is a relatively short-term measure. Ultimately, decisions will have to be taken on replacing coal-fired capacity in Scotland, just as they will have to be taken on our nuclear capacity.

The amendments are interesting. In the main, they clearly and honestly express the views of the parties that lodged them, which is exactly what we wanted to be expressed in the debate. We wanted to provide the platform for an open and honest debate, in which individuals and parties could put forward their own views and not be hampered by the restrictions that politics can place upon them. It is, therefore, disappointing that the policy that the Labour Party expressed at its conference only a few short days ago, when it indicated clearly that it wants to pursue an energy policy that includes the replacement of nuclear and coal-fired capacity, has been removed from the Executive amendment.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No, thank you, not at the moment, Shiona.

Our disappointment at the Labour Party amendment is further increased by the fact that, in the debate on BBC television last night entitled "The Generation Gap", the Deputy First Minister, Nicol Stephen, felt no restriction on how he expressed Executive energy policy. From his seat in the television studio, he said exactly what he thought the Executive's energy policy for the future should be. However, the policy that he expressed was not Executive policy but Liberal Democrat policy.

Worse still, Nicol Stephen took a view that the Executive would never dare to take: he said that if we do not take the serious decisions that have to be taken, we will still be able to rely on our supplies of energy from the North sea. Although much North sea gas is found in Scottish waters, the problem is that it is part of a world and European supply network, which means that it comes at world or European prices. For that reason, not only does our domestic gas supply have a limited lifespan, but it could become extremely expensive.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Alex Johnstone was not present yesterday when we had the opportunity to sign up for personal energy tariffs under green schemes. Will he consider joining the significant number of Scottish National Party MSPs who have signed up to divert some of their energy payments to green energy suppliers, thereby helping to secure Scotland's future energy needs?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I will consider it. Indeed, I can discuss at great length the measures that I have taken in my personal life to try to reduce my energy consumption, but perhaps that discussion is for another debate.

We have debated the need to replace nuclear and coal-fired generating capacity many times. I believe, in common with many in my party, that it is absolutely essential to the future economic well-being of our industry and our people in Scotland. If we are not prepared to address the issue now, it could well be too late to do so. The lead-in time for new capacity is so long and the difficulties that new proposals face are so severe that we must start the process now. Even people who oppose the replacement of nuclear and coal-fired capacity must understand the significance of the timescale.

We have brought the subject back to the chamber today because it is one of the most urgent issues that faces the Parliament. We want to ensure that the Executive takes clear and concise decisions. We are extremely disappointed that the views of the Labour Party have been completely removed from the Executive amendment. The Labour Party is being led by the nose by the Liberal Democrats, who have an ulterior motive—the decimation of Scotland's electricity generating capacity.

The arguments in favour of renewable energy, micro-generation and fuel efficiency are all worthy. We should pursue relentlessly all such avenues. However, failure to replace base-load generation capacity in the Scottish market will result in job losses and a reversal of economic growth. It will create a catastrophe of immense proportions for Scotland. Now is the time to have this argument. Now is the time to make difficult decisions. Members on the Labour front bench need to commit themselves to that. After all, Labour is the only party in the chamber that has failed to address this key issue. The time has come to address this matter. We look forward to the Executive's response.

I move,

That the Parliament calls on the Scottish Executive to support the adoption of a balanced energy policy to meet the energy needs of the nation, including the promotion of clean coal technology, new and replacement nuclear build, as well as oil and gas and renewables and therefore considers that immediate plans must be started to replace or renew our existing coal-fired and nuclear generating stations where required.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 9:25 am, 9th March 2006

I am happy to reply on behalf of the Executive. As Alex Johnstone correctly pointed out, it has been only six weeks since I stood before Parliament—albeit in a different place—and stated our commitment to our continuing policy objectives of increasing the proportion of energy that is generated from renewable sources; tackling climate change and fuel poverty; and ensuring security of supply for Scottish consumers.

Much has happened in the interim, and Scottish Power's decision to make a significant investment to extend Longannet's life well beyond 2015 is, as our amendment suggests, a welcome move and demonstrates confidence in the continued development of clean coal technology in Scotland.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

Given Scottish Power's welcome announcement and the clean coal technologies that are available, does the minister agree that black is now the new green?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I have heard it said that nuclear is the new green. However, I agree that coal has a future in meeting Scotland's electricity needs. Scotland is at the forefront of clean coal technology, which will have a long and healthy future.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I agree entirely with the minister's comments about coal. However, his amendment is inaccurate. Longannet cannot supply the base load for Scotland in the winter, which is 6,000 to 7,000MW. Hunterston and Torness together generate 2,500MW, and traditionally have helped to supply the summer and winter base load. Does the minister agree?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I do not agree that the amendment is inaccurate, because it

"notes the progress made at Longannet to secure future base load energy supplies".

The base-load supply for Scotland—or, indeed, for the United Kingdom—cannot be secured by one energy source or by Longannet alone. I and the Executive fundamentally believe that our future energy needs must be met by a balanced mix of energy resources.

During the past six weeks, the first two volumes of the "Scottish Energy Study" have been published. They give a factual overview of energy supply and demand trends between 1990 and 2002 and provide us with good evidence with which to develop our energy policy. However, the information in the study is only part of our approach. We are also maintaining regular dialogue with the UK Government as it takes forward its UK energy review. As I have said before in the chamber, that review will not concentrate only on nuclear power. It will assess progress on the four goals that were set out in the 2003 UK energy white paper: first, to put the UK on a path to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, with real progress to be made by 2020; secondly, to maintain the reliability of energy supplies; thirdly, to promote competitive markets in the UK and beyond; and, finally, to ensure that every home is adequately and affordably heated. Affordability is critical to all those considerations. The review will consider all options for delivering on those objectives and meeting the UK's future energy needs.

Clearly, the energy issues that face the UK also face Scotland, but there is also a Scottish perspective to this whole matter. For us, the key issues are: securing energy supplies, although we must acknowledge that the energy mix and infrastructure are different in Scotland; addressing the other side of the supply and demand equation by constraining growth in energy demand through energy efficiency improvements; reducing carbon energy levels to meet the challenges presented by climate change, which I suspect will be one of the key drivers of future energy policy; achieving the Executive's target of generating 40 per cent of energy from renewable energy sources by 2020; and providing affordable energy at a price that does not unduly constrain economic growth or exacerbate fuel poverty.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I am sorry, Mr Fraser.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I have to say that we are not usually confused so easily.

I am sure that the minister was present at last weekend's Labour Party conference in Aviemore. Will he tell the chamber whether he disagreed with any part of the energy motion that was passed at that conference?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I was indeed present at that occasion and I made a valuable contribution to the debate. In response to Mr Fraser's question, I should say that, as a Labour Party member, I support Labour Party policy on these matters.

The policies that we develop in Scotland must recognise that we must find solutions that meet our future energy demands in a way that improves energy efficiency and reduces the environmental impacts of climate change. Our progress so far has been noteworthy, although I suspect that I do not have enough time to go into great detail on that. However, I should point out that we are developing—and will, later this year, publish—our own energy efficiency strategy, which will acknowledge the important role that the micro-generation of renewable energy could play in the drive to meet climate change objectives.

I could say much more on the matter, but I will conclude by saying that energy policy is not about knee-jerk reactions. I fundamentally agree with Alex Johnstone's point that we have to take a long-term view. The real solution to meet Scotland's long-term energy needs lies in a robust policy that does not depend on a single source, but that seeks to capture Scotland's potential to have a wide-ranging, secure and balanced energy mix.

I move amendment S2M-4074.3, to leave out from "calls on" to end and insert:

"notes the progress made at Longannet to secure future base load energy supplies; supports the Scottish Executive's commitment to the development of a wide range of renewable energy technologies in Scotland as a key element of a balanced energy supply mix; supports the Executive's target that 40% of electricity generated in Scotland by 2020 should come from renewable sources; looks forward to publication of the revised Scottish Climate Change Programme and the consideration given to the contribution of energy efficiency and renewables to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; endorses the Executive's commitment to tackling fuel poverty; acknowledges the Executive's commitment to not support further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved; welcomes the release of the first two volumes of the Scottish Energy Study; recognises the importance of the UK Energy Review, and supports the Executive's engagement with the UK Government, Ofgem and the energy industry to ensure that the future energy supply needs of Scotland are met."

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 9:33 am, 9th March 2006

The SNP welcomes this debate on one of the most important issues that will face the nation in the years ahead. The decisions that we take over the next few years will affect generations to come and determine the Scottish economy's success.

I should begin by saying that the Tory party and the Labour Party in Scotland seem to have signed some nuclear treaty. After all, they are the two political parties that will go into next year's Scottish Parliament elections with a pro-nuclear policy. However, the Scottish Labour Party's decision at its Aviemore conference to cave in to Tony Blair and give nuclear power the thumbs up has left it with egg on its face, in light of a BBC poll that was conducted a few days later in which the people of Scotland gave the decision the thumbs down. Indeed, a few days after that, the Sustainable Development Commission, which was set up by the Scottish Labour Government that has—as I must make clear—just come out in favour of nuclear power in Scotland, also gave the move a huge thumbs down.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I am really interested to find out what the SNP's energy policy is. Does it think that the nation's future energy policy and needs should be determined by BBC opinion polls?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I realise that a BBC opinion poll is not the be-all and end-all, but I expect that on this issue it is more in touch with the people of Scotland than is the Scottish Labour Party.

Scotland is self-sufficient in energy and, with the right policies, can remain energy-independent. We must get away from the claim made by Tony Blair in London that the UK will be starved of energy in the near future, and instead discuss the facts. Scotland is an energy-rich country. We have more than 60 per cent of Europe's oil reserves, more than 12 per cent of Europe's gas reserves, 70 per cent of the UK's coal reserves, 25 per cent of Europe's wind potential, 10 per cent of Europe's wave potential and a quarter of Europe's tidal potential. Let us talk about the facts in this debate, not the scaremongering of the Tory party and the Labour Party.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Mr Lochhead talks about potential. If—heaven help us—the SNP took over in 2007, would he just close down the nuclear power plants and have nothing on stream in their place? Can he give us some concrete dates for when he expects the energy mix that the SNP prefers to deliver Scotland's requirements? At the moment, if we switched off nuclear we would not be self-sufficient.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The SNP's long-standing policy is that nuclear power stations in Scotland will not be replaced at the end of their technical and economic lives. The debate is about whether Scotland needs new nuclear power stations, and the SNP is arguing that the last thing Scotland needs is more nuclear power stations.

There is no answer to the waste issue. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management has already said that the issue cannot be resolved, so the coalition's current policy is in tatters. Why cannot we update the policy, put the issue behind us and realise Scotland's potential for cleaner, safer and cheaper energy alternatives? That is the way forward for Scotland.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

No, the member is in the final minute of his speech.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I apologise; I do not have time to take an intervention.

If we take the disastrous decision to go for nuclear, it will undermine not only renewables—which can create new jobs and give us clean energy resources—but energy efficiency, which we have to talk about more in this Parliament.

To find a solution for Scotland's energy needs, we need to have energy powers in this Parliament. According to the BBC opinion poll, 82 per cent of Scots want decisions on Scotland's nuclear future to be taken in this Parliament, not in London. Scotland's Deputy First Minister, Nicol Stephen, said on television last night that he wants more energy powers to come to the Scottish Parliament. The Steel commission is talking about more energy powers coming to this Parliament from London. Why cannot we just do what is right for Scotland, not what is right for Tony Blair, and say no to nuclear by supporting the SNP's amendment today?

I move amendment S2M-4074.2, to leave out from "calls on" to end and insert:

"believes that there is no case for the building of new nuclear power stations in Scotland and that decisions on our energy future should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament rather than the UK Government, in line with the wishes of the people of Scotland."

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 9:37 am, 9th March 2006

Energy policy undoubtedly remains one of the most urgent and most challenging issues facing us today. [ Interruption. ] There seem to be problems with the sound system. My goodness, what are we to do if we cannot even get the sound right?

The choices that we make over the next few years will shape the future of our children and grandchildren. [Interruption.] I beg your pardon, Presiding Officer, it seems that I am speaking into the wrong microphone. I am sorry. We Greens cannot always be right, although I suppose that we are right about 99 per cent of the time. [Laughter.]

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Yes, just get on with it.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

There are clear signs that too many people in the chamber are not thinking the energy issue through properly. The Tories' motion makes it clear that they consider energy policy to be synonymous with electricity supply. We need to raise our game and recognise that electricity accounts for less than a quarter of final energy use. Any energy policy that simply ignores the other three quarters is doomed to fail from the word go, because our road, rail and air transport uses energy and our homes use energy.

I hope that everyone in the chamber accepts that climate change means that we cannot go on as we have in the past, but there is another factor, almost as pressing, that will have just as great an influence on our energy future. We have grown up in an age of cheap oil that is now coming to an end. UK oil production peaked a few years ago and the global oil peak will probably happen in the next five to 10 years. We need to move to a low-carbon economy as a matter of urgency, whether we like it or not. The profligate way in which we have been using energy in recent years will have to come to an end and we will all have to tighten our belts.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

On profligacy in the use of oil, does Shiona Baird have any comment to make on the fact that Robin Harper appeared to come to Parliament today in a chauffeur-driven Lexus?

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

He was sharing the car. He had been having an early morning breakfast meeting and was offered a lift. Mr Davidson misunderstands the Green approach. We are not against cars as such, but let us not kid ourselves. Oil is running out and there are no magic wands that we can wave and no silver bullets for replacing cheap oil and gas.

We cannot just build more nuclear power stations. Doing so will not let us carry on as if nothing has happened. I wish it were so. If I believed that nuclear power offered a genuinely sustainable energy future and an answer to climate change and oil depletion, I would embrace it, but nuclear-generated electricity supplies less than 8 per cent of our total energy needs.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

I cannot, as I will not be allowed extra time for interventions.

The Sustainable Development Commission spent a year examining the case for nuclear power and the role that it could play in a low-carbon economy. Its conclusion was that nuclear power is not the answer, for five main reasons: waste; economics; inflexibility; security; and the distraction that it would be from more effective energy strategies. That is not knee-jerk polemics from environmental ideologues but a carefully studied and well-reasoned analysis. It is notable that the Westminster Conservative energy spokesman, Alan Duncan, said that the Government should pay close attention to a report that puts a spanner in the works of its nuclear ambitions. Perhaps Mr Duncan should have a word with his Scottish colleagues, because it is clear that the Scottish Conservatives still have the same blinkered attitude to nuclear power, irrespective of the growing evidence that it is a dead end and a blind alley.

At least the Scottish Tories are not going down the blind alley alone. The Scottish Labour Party, with one or two honourable exceptions, seems intent on making the same mistake. We will watch that Tory-Labour nuclear pact with interest, but one thing is for certain: whatever the Tories and Labour think about nuclear power, the majority of Scots want nothing to do with it. The BBC poll clearly indicates that nuclear power is an energy source of last resort. We are a democracy and we need to listen to what the people are saying. It is equally clear that we are no nearer to finding a resolution to the waste issue, irrespective of the First Minister's sophistry.

There are no easy answers. The future holds many challenges but also many opportunities. We need to reduce and to manage energy demand. We must recognise that we can reduce our energy use by around a third without much effort. We will not need any new nuclear if we achieve that level of energy efficiency, which we can do in far less time than it takes to build new nuclear. Why are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by a technology from the past that will play no role for at least 10 to 15 years? Evidence is now stacking up that we might not have that long before we get to the point of no return with rising CO2 emissions. We need to recognise the enormous potential of Scottish renewables, while accepting that that sector will need a great deal of financial support for the foreseeable future. We need to think about how we generate and distribute our power, as regional and local networks are far more efficient and accountable. I was heartened to read that the Westminster Tories, too, are beginning to recognise the value of decentralised networks.

Most of all, we need energy efficiency. We must save resources, save money and protect the climate. How many more reasons do we need? There are challenges and opportunities. There are some tricky choices but no easy answers. We cannot afford to get energy policy wrong. I move amendment S2M-4074.1, to leave out from "calls on" to end and insert:

"acknowledges that the development of stable, secure and sustainable future energy policy is one of the most pressing and most challenging tasks facing the present generation; recognises that any future energy policy must consider all energy and not merely electricity, which accounts for only around one-fifth of total energy demand; accepts that such a policy must take into account the twin problems of climate change and dwindling supplies of oil and other fossil fuels; welcomes the recent publication by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) of its position paper, The Role of Nuclear Power in a Low Carbon Economy; supports the conclusion of the SDC that nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change or security of supply; further notes the results of a BBC Scotland opinion poll indicating that a majority of Scots favour more renewable energy while a small minority supports new nuclear power, and calls on the Scottish Executive to ensure that Scotland's future energy policy involves radical energy efficiency measures, the expansion of all renewable technologies, decentralised networks and the widespread adoption of microgeneration."

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 9:44 am, 9th March 2006

Another debate, another opportunity to make the Liberal Democrats' opposition to new nuclear power stations crystal clear. The Tories do not agree. Their motion calls for new and replacement nuclear build. That makes the Tory position clear—or does it? Launching the Tory energy policy review in February, Alan Duncan said that his party had

"no fixed opinion on nuclear energy".

This week, he went further still and said:

"you can't go against the grain of public opinion on nuclear power ... We are open-minded but we start from a position of suspicion."

On 2 March, David Cameron said that we want decentralised energy; on 9 March, Scottish Tories call for more nuclear power, which requires a centralised energy system. Young David plans a wind turbine for his roof; Murdo Fraser calls for a moratorium on wind energy. Alan Duncan is suspicious of new nuclear power stations; Alex Johnstone is positively excited by them. How interesting it is that the Scottish Tories continue to embrace nuclear energy while the English Tories are much less happy about it.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

Will Nora Radcliffe tell us what Lord Thurso's views on nuclear power are?

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

Lord Thurso has made his views on nuclear power clear. They are his own views, not the policy or views of the majority of the Liberal Democrats. We can accommodate people who disagree with us on one policy issue.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Nora Radcliffe is the only Liberal Democrat member in the chamber—

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

No, there is another one here.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I apologise to Jeremy Purvis. Is it not the case that, in the Executive, the tail is wagging the dog and constraining the minister from making the statements that he would like to make on the Executive's policy?

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

That may or may not be true. We have a four-year agreement on a programme for government that both parties are honouring. That is to be commended.

Tony Blair seems fixated on having new nuclear power stations. Perhaps he regards it as one of his legacy issues, but it seems careless that it comes with an expensive and hazardous legacy for generations to come.

Over recent weeks and months, we have been deaved by the mantra that nuclear power is the only game in town and that, without it, the lights will go out. On Monday, the Sustainable Development Commission—the UK Government's official advisory body on environmental issues—debunked that myth. Its clear advice to UK ministers is:

"there is no justification for bringing forward plans for a new nuclear power programme, at this time".

The commission rejected nuclear power on no fewer than five key grounds. Members should read its report.

Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry admitted that questions about finance, Government support, market mechanisms, public support and the storage of radioactive waste are all still unanswered.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

Is Nora Radcliffe aware that there are other people who take an opposing view to that of the Sustainable Development Commission? According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the cost of nuclear power is less than half the price of wind power. The fact is that the uranium that is used in our nuclear power stations is at least 97 per cent renewable. It sounds as if nuclear power should be considered on cost grounds at least.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

Ted Brocklebank should look at the tag on the report to which he refers; I suggest that there is a strong vested interest.

I outlined what the DTI admitted last year. One year on, there are no proposed solutions to those fundamental questions, unless we count the suggestion in a leaked report from Sir David King, the chief scientific adviser, that new nuclear power stations should be funded by a levy on everyone's electricity bill.

Are we, the public, to pay twice over for new nuclear power stations? No. We must grasp the economic and environmental opportunity that renewable energy offers to Scotland and make that our priority. In Scotland, where Liberal Democrats, in partnership with the Labour Party and with the support of other parties, have put renewables at the top of the agenda, we are on track to achieve and exceed our target of 18 per cent renewables by 2010, while it looks as if the UK Government will fail to achieve its target of 10 per cent. That is no coincidence. Let us also be clear that it is the involvement of Liberal Democrats in Government in Scotland that has led to the Executive policy of building no new nuclear power stations while waste issues remain unresolved.

For many years to come, we will have a nuclear industry in decommissioning, but new nuclear generation is not the answer to our energy needs here and now. Apart from anything else, it cannot be ready in time to replace old coal and old nuclear power stations. The future and the opportunities are in clean coal, carbon sequestration and, most of all, a revolution in renewables, energy efficiency and micro-generation.

I call on members to support the Executive amendment.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 9:50 am, 9th March 2006

I open with a couple of quotations:

"The UK's leading engineer, Sir Alec Broers, the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering has warned that renewable energy will not stop global warming or blackouts. He has said that the UK Government's plans to generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 were unrealistic and investment in nuclear power was critical if shortages were to be avoided."

The other quotation comes from the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee's report "Meeting Scotland's Future Energy Needs", which is dated 16 March 2005. The select committee stressed:

"It is ... vital that decisions are taken now, to obviate the possibility of, quite literally, the lights going out in Scotland in the foreseeable future."

I cannot understand why the Labour Party, which obviously agrees with all that we have been arguing for, is frozen like a rabbit in car headlights and is not making a proper public commitment to the policy that it has just been talking about.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Does David Davidson appreciate that he is scaremongering and misleading the people of Scotland? The statistics that he just read out are UK statistics, not Scottish ones, and our energy profile is completely different from that of the UK. Will he please tell the truth and give the facts?

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

To be frank, if Richard Lochhead is prepared to accept a BBC poll as the substance for his arguments, he should not be talking about numbers.

Our problems in Scotland are to do with the future sustainability of power supplies, their affordability and the fact that, although our energy requirements are increasing, we are not doing enough to become energy efficient. Energy efficiency must go hand in hand with power production; we must help people to heat their homes. I have no objection to somebody erecting mini-turbines on their house if they can get planning permission, but I do not understand why Scotland's countryside is being covered with miles of wind farms that cost energy in a way that nobody ever talks about.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I think not in a moment; you have about one and a half minutes left.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

We must think about the mix of systems. The argument should be about the percentages of different forms of energy generation that we use. North sea oil and gas are a great source of revenue for the economy of the north-east of Scotland, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes in through the back door and, through stealth thuggery, takes millions of pounds away from that industry to the point that the major oil and gas companies are going to cut down on investment. If they do that, many jobs will be lost so, if the chancellor is to carry on with that policy, we must ensure that we now make decisions on and invest in the two sources that will meet our energy requirements: clean coal and nuclear. Sites for those are already connected to the grid, and we have willing staff and communities that are happy to accept those installations. We need to replace the two nuclear power stations that we enjoy and there is no reason why new ones cannot be commissioned alongside them.

The long and the short of it is that the Government in Scotland is too busy trying to appease its minor colleagues—the Liberal Democrats—and must stand up and be counted. It cannot carry on messing about and giving weird and wild quotations about this, that and the other without coming to a decision. I ask the minister to commit in his closing speech to a programme of nuclear renewal.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 9:53 am, 9th March 2006

I have quite a lot of sympathy for the Tory motion and have been arguing along those lines for many years—a lot longer than some of my colleagues down south—but I question the Tories' motivation, which is, I suspect, to split the coalition. With Nicol Stephen doing such a good job of that, I am surprised that they are bothering to try.

The debate is about a reserved policy matter. Although the Scottish Executive has powers in planning, the UK Government will determine energy policy and I have every confidence that our colleagues down south will come to a sensible conclusion. However, as Nora Radcliffe pointed out, the Tories are slightly at odds with each other north and south of the border. Mr Cameron, their leader, has said that he is open minded about nuclear power and has appointed Zac Goldsmith, the editor of The Ecologist magazine and a well-known critic of nuclear power, to be deputy chairman of the Conservative party's wider quality-of-life review.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I point out that Scotland's proportion of nuclear power is far higher than that south of the border. Will Elaine Murray guarantee that her Executive ministers will not put a block on energy policy that is set at Westminster?

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

They are not my Executive ministers, because I am not the First Minister, so I cannot guarantee anything.

I am one of those who were pleased to support the Amicus and National Union of Mineworkers motion on coal and nuclear power that the Scottish Labour conference agreed to. I support ambitious renewable energy targets; I do not include nuclear energy as a renewable source. We need to have energy efficiency targets and targets for non-carbon-generated energy.

The most recent statistics show that Scotland has been using 175TWh of energy a year. We have six major generating stations, three of which are nuclear. Just under 40 per cent of our current power generation is nuclear. I do not think that we can keep our industries and services running without a nuclear power component and a clean coal component.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I am sorry—I do not have time. The alternative, which was not supported by the Scottish people according to the recent BBC poll, is importing oil and gas or energy that is generated by nuclear means in Europe. I do not support that, either.

I draw the Parliament's attention to the comments of Professor Lovelock, a fundamental green. He was one of the first people to point out the problems with the ozone layer and one of the first people to mention the likely impact of global warming. He has pointed out to us that if we had 50 years to bring on renewable technology, we might be okay, but we do not have 50 years. The problem is far more imminent. We cannot tackle climate change unless we accept that nuclear power has to play a part, at least for the next generation. That will allow us time to develop renewables and to develop nuclear fusion technologies, which mean that, in the longer term, we might not require nuclear fission.

The Sustainable Development Commission, which has been mentioned in the debate, states:

"nuclear is a low carbon technology, with an impressive safety record in the UK. Nuclear could generate large quantities of electricity, contribute to stabilising CO2 emissions and add to the diversity of the UK's energy supply."

There are a number of reasons why the Sustainable Development Commission came out against nuclear power generation on balance at the moment. I think that there are questions about some of the issues that the commission has. However, the commission was not nearly as damning of the nuclear generation capacity as some of the reports in the media have suggested. If we have a UK energy review that accepts new nuclear generation, I do not see why my constituents at Chapelcross should be excluded from the benefits of new-generation nuclear power if, just across the Solway, the people at Sellafield and Calder Hall are not.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 9:57 am, 9th March 2006

It was interesting to hear Alex Johnstone talking about the need for affordable energy and the need to look after the less well off in society. I do not know whether I am the only person in the chamber who, on hearing a different Tory tune from the one that we heard in previous decades, finds it not totally believable, even with the new, cuddly David Cameron at the Tories' head, allegedly leading the charge.

Carbon, which we have talked about a lot today, is not the only contributor to global warming. In fact, methane is a larger contributor. When Alex Johnstone was talking about his personal contribution to the problem, I was wondering whether he had been able to do something about the way in which his cows' digestive system works.

I agree with the Tories on the urgency of the situation, of course. It is true that coal and nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their useful lives, although it is amazing how the useful lives of power stations prove to be much more elastic than predicted. That gives us a breathing space at most. My worry is that the Government appears to be far too optimistic in some of its targets. The Government has belatedly changed the renewables obligation order—I think that it was considered by a committee this week. However, I am not convinced that that will mean that sufficient investment will be put into the emerging renewables technologies that we will need if we are even going to meet the Government's targets, far less exceed them. I refer to wave and tidal power technologies.

There is a limit to how much wind power can be generated. It is unlikely that the wind will ever not be blowing somewhere in Scotland, but that is a possibility that we must cater for. We must get more investment into renewables technologies to make them commercially viable and we must do that by 2020. I am very much concerned that the pace of development is not fast enough.

We have heard a lot about clean coal technology, but we should not misuse such terms. On its own, clean coal technology will not reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by one iota. Even co-firing does not reduce the amount of CO2 over the long term; it just reduces the pace at which the same amount of CO2 is put into the atmosphere. Although that technology is welcome, we need to consider carbon capture much more seriously. Carbon capture is still theoretical. It has not yet been brought to market. What is the Government going to do to ensure that it is brought to market, particularly in those areas that are remote from the pipelines that lead back to the depleted oil reservoirs where the carbon can be stored?

I would point out to Labour members that there are some weasel words in their amendment. It says that new nuclear power stations will not be supported

"while waste management issues remain unresolved".

What does that mean? I suspect that it means until one or two months before the next general election, when it is no longer necessary to hold the coalition together. If Labour members vote for their amendment, they are accepting the possibility that waste management issues will remain unresolved for decades—perhaps for ever. They must have a strategy to cater for that situation. If they do not think that they can adopt such a strategy, they should vote against their own amendment.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We come now to closing speeches. We are quite some distance behind the clock.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green 10:02 am, 9th March 2006

We live in interesting times. We have a new Labour Government that has moved well to the right; we now seem to have a Conservative party that is taking up the Labour Party's positions and using its own motions to do so. We have the Liberal Democrats who, on the face of it, sound entirely clear on their nuclear policy; in fact, they have some severe disagreements, with Lord Thurso saying that he feels that he is on the edge of persuading his colleagues to take up a different position.

We have heard a lot from the Conservatives today about the costs of different forms of energy generation and the minister said that affordability is critical. However, the Government's energy review in 2002 made it clear that nuclear power is one of the most expensive options. It comes in at between 3p and 4p per kilowatt, compared with onshore wind power at 1.5p to 2.5p per kilowatt. Even offshore wind is cheaper than nuclear power. If it is affordability that we use as our top criterion, we must develop renewables and we must let the nuclear power stations reach the end of their natural lives and be decommissioned.

The minister has talked about climate change, which is indeed a crucial issue. A nuclear power station emits as much carbon dioxide as the very cleanest form of gas-powered stations with combined heat and power. Nuclear power is not carbon neutral. Nuclear power generation emits carbon during the building of nuclear power stations, the mining of uranium, the enrichment of uranium and the decommissioning of the power stations at the end of their lives, not to mention the storage of waste for thousands of years to come.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

No, I am sorry. I do not have time. The importance of energy efficiency was raised by both Richard Lochhead and my colleague Shiona Baird. The Government's performance and innovation unit has estimated that we can save 30 per cent of our energy requirements through cost-effective energy efficiency measures. Surely that is the very first fundamental step that we must take in considering future energy requirements. Efficiency in energy use gives us more efficient businesses, addresses fuel poverty, addresses climate change and is more effective than concentrating on the generation end of the equation.

We have heard about security. What is less secure than basing our future energy requirements on a generation of 10 new AP1000 nuclear stations, which have never been built anywhere in the world and about whose performance we know nothing, other than from computer modelling?

There is also the enormous question of waste. We still do not have a clue as to what to do with nuclear waste. Nirex estimates that to find, open and run a secure waste repository will take between 25 and 40 years.

We have heard from Elaine Murray about importing fuels. There are not huge quantities of uranium in Britain; 100 per cent of it is imported.

For all the reasons that I have given, I urge members to support the amendment in the name of Shiona Baird.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 10:06 am, 9th March 2006

Scott Barrie asked the deputy minister whether black was the new green. Mr Wilson believes to an extent that nuclear is the new green. Of course there are practical arguments against nuclear, such as those expressed by the Royal Society. One question that has been raised is:

"Does the fact that it is expensive to create, almost cost-free to run, and then so expensive to decommission mean that in a private market someone will make the investment, run it, and then skedaddle leaving someone else to pick up the pieces?"—[Official Report, House of Commons, 17 January 2006; Vol 441, c 779.]

That is a legitimate fear, which was expressed by Mr Alan Duncan, who is well placed to make such comments.

The argument is that no private investor, in isolation, has built a nuclear power station anywhere in the world since the events at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. When President Bush's Energy Policy Act of 2005 was passed by Congress in August, he said that it would reverse the fact that no new power station had been built in the United States since the 1970s. However, the act included several massive incentives to encourage the construction of new nuclear power plants, including production tax credits, loan guarantees and risk protection for the companies that decided to pursue the first new reactors.

Nuclear power plants are not economically viable as investment opportunities, unless there is massive Government intervention, as of course there is in Finland.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

If I have time later on, I will give way to Mr Fraser.

Furthermore, our experience in this country tells us that once such plants are built, they are uninsurable. The low unit price of nuclear generation has to be offset against the financial cost of managing construction, as Alan Duncan said.

It is curious that the Conservatives are campaigning to be the party of loan guarantees and risk protection for energy companies. Why does that not apply to other companies that provide services to households or businesses?

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I wish to make progress. I will come back to Mr Fraser if I have time.

Richard Lochhead said that we are self-sufficient for energy in Scotland and that we export energy that we generate. What is wrong with that? In a previous debate on energy, it was said that we produce more whisky than we need in Scotland and we see considerable value in exporting it.

Shiona Baird explained helpfully that Mr Harper shared his Lexus this morning with his driver. She was right to say that with energy conservation we can reduce radically the need for new nuclear generation. I agree absolutely. Renewables are contributing to local and national generation, which is good for Scotland.

Phil Gallie asked in an intervention whether the tail was wagging the dog in the Executive. Much as I am tempted, I will not ask whether that is connected with the proposals on tail docking in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill.

Nora Radcliffe pointed to the curious fact that the Scottish Conservatives are calling for a new nuclear solution, which is a reserved decision, but their UK spokesman, Alan Duncan, said:

"I have had an instinctive hostility to nuclear power. I treat it with profound suspicion."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 17 January 2006; Vol 441, c 779.]

I read this week in that august journal The Daily Telegraph that David Cameron wants to put a wind turbine on the roof of his house in Notting Hill. Well done to him. I am sure that he cares not that that is contrary to the moratorium policy of his Scottish colleagues.

Alasdair Morgan talked about the complexities of technologies. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management is currently considering the complexities of waste.

I agree with Chris Ballance that the starting point has to be energy conservation and efficiency. If we get that right and follow the Executive's approach, we do not need new nuclear in Scotland.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 10:10 am, 9th March 2006

In this interesting debate we have, yet again, seen two sides. One side—Labour and Tory members—sits in Scotland and looks to London for the solutions to the problems that arise here, instead of presenting robustly the Scottish view that our conditions are different. Let us turn the map around. Do members of Unionist parties denigrate the potential for free sources of power in this country that we could try to export to other parts of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

No. I do not have time. I want to develop my argument.

The Scottish perspective is different and the opportunities here are tremendous, as long as there is a fair degree of investment in renewables, which many members have suggested. Given the way in which past Governments invested in nuclear, we must ask ourselves whether the UK Government is going to use incentives like the Bush incentives to kick start investment in nuclear power again. The investment will be far greater; indeed, how much will be offered is incalculable at present. The amounts that are offered for renewables development are far too small. That is why such development is so slow.

The nuclear argument is predicated on the supply of uranium. We know that if the current number of nuclear power stations in the world— 400—is doubled, the supply of uranium will run out in 30 years' time. The cost of uranium, for which there is a world market, will increase. In any argument about the development of nuclear, we must acknowledge that the planning process for new nuclear power reactors will take 10 years and they will take 20 years to build. At the end of those 30 years, there might not be any fuel to power a nuclear reactor. There will be a big full stop at the end of 30 years. That is one of the major flaws in the Conservative argument.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Is the member aware that the fuel element of the cost of nuclear generation is very small and that if the price of uranium rises significantly in years to come, we will be able to use the brand new source of uranium dissolved in sea water, which will be economic and so plentiful that there will not be a problem again?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

The Tories might place their faith in such experimental technology, but they might also tell us what the cost of the nuclear industry is. No one has taken a nuclear plant through the process from building to use to decommissioning to dealing with waste, so no one can put a figure on the costs for one nuclear plant, far less for the 400 in the world. Once again, the Tories try to make us believe that nuclear is a technology that we can afford.

There have been several speeches on the other side of the argument. Let us turn the map around. I can see more potential for power from the sea around Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, through wave and tidal power and offshore and onshore wind, than exists from coal, nuclear and other sources in Scotland at present. However, I hear nothing from Tory members about the development of such power or its transmission to the rest of the UK. The flaw is that they are in favour of big power, whereas we are in favour of a balance that is based on our free renewables.

The SNP amendment shows why members must reject the Tory and Labour approach if they want to have a Scottish perspective on energy.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 10:14 am, 9th March 2006

In my limited time I will try to deal with all the points that have been raised.

I turn first to Shiona Baird. I would have been more impressed with the Green contribution to the debate had Shiona not voted against the revision of the draft Renewables Obligation (Scotland) Order 2006 in the Enterprise and Culture Committee only this week.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

I voted against the order because it promotes energy from waste and applies renewables obligation certificates to energy from municipal waste, which is not renewable in any sense.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

There we go. The Greens are against something else. There comes a time or a day of reckoning when one must ask people to state what they are in favour of rather than simply what they are against.

In that context, Nora Radcliffe's speech was welcome, although I am afraid that she misrepresented the position of the Prime Minister and the UK Government on the UK energy review. There is no secret agenda and no foregone conclusion. The Prime Minister and the UK Government have made it clear that the UK energy review will be conducted as an open debate and that everyone, including the Scottish Executive, is entitled to contribute to it. It is concerned not simply with whether there will be a new generation of nuclear build; it is about our future energy needs as a nation. In that context, it is interesting that Richard Lochhead failed to address the fundamental issues—affordability, security of supply and combating climate change. Instead, we heard the pathetic excuse that policy should be determined by reference to public opinion polls.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Energy bills in Scotland are spiralling upwards. Does the minister accept that that is an indictment of the UK's energy policy, which has failed Scotland miserably?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Electricity bills in the UK are the cheapest in the European Union. Obviously, there are challenges due to the increase in oil and gas prices in the global market, but the answer is not to do what Richard Lochhead proposes and build new gas-fired power stations. In the current climate, that would be economic madness. Governments—

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I will correct another basic misunderstanding. Governments do not build power stations. Governments set planning policy and other environmental policies that are informative and illustrative for the industry and the market brings forward proposals—

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

No. I will continue if the member does not mind.

Many members failed to grasp the fact that Governments do not build power stations.

Unlike Richard Lochhead, Alasdair Morgan made a thoughtful speech in which he led us to believe that the SNP is thinking about the matter for the long term and without reference to opinion polls. He commented on the important issue of carbon capture and storage. I fundamentally agree that there is the potential for an 85 per cent reduction through the capture of CO2. We support the development of programmes and projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of that technology, including the important developments in north-east Scotland.

Chris Ballance demonstrated a complete failure to understand the economics of the industry and issues of affordability. Wind power costs 3p to 4p per kilowatt hour. If wave and tidal power are developed, they will cost five to eight times as much. Power from biomass, which is a potentially significant source of base load, costs about 4.5p per kilowatt hour. I accept that estimates of the cost of new nuclear power vary, but at the lower end the cost is 2.5p per kilowatt hour and the maximum is 4p per kilowatt hour. The cost of power from new gas-fired power stations is up to about 4p per kilowatt hour. If members do the arithmetic, they will come to a simple conclusion.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We do come to a conclusion. I call Murdo Fraser to close the debate.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 10:20 am, 9th March 2006

The debate has been lively and instructive. The sight of the morning—indeed, the sight of the week—has been Labour members' flip-flopping around on the issue and trying to square the circle. I enjoyed the minister's speech and I particularly enjoyed the speech by Dr Elaine Murray. It is difficult to disagree with a single word that she said. It seems to me that she made a speech in support of the motion rather than a speech in support of the Executive's amendment.

There is a challenge for Labour members. Will they have the courage of their convictions and support the motion—we know that they agree with every word of it because it reflects the motion that the Labour conference in Aviemore supported less than 10 days ago—or will they vote for the Executive amendment, which they do not believe in? That is the question for Labour members, but we know that their hearts are in the right place. When I challenged the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning during his opening speech, he said that he supports Labour policy. We will see whether Labour members have the courage of their convictions at decision time, when they will vote either for Labour Party policy or with the Executive.

If the minister wants to give an explanation for his conduct, I will be delighted to give way.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The member will accept that we must find a solution to the problems associated with the disposal of nuclear waste. The Executive's position on that is crystal clear and is encapsulated in our amendment. We do not support the development of new nuclear power stations until the nuclear waste issue is resolved.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

If the issue of nuclear waste is so important, it is strange that it did not feature in the motion that the Labour Party discussed at its recent conference in Aviemore. However, that is a matter for Labour members to explain to their constituency members at the weekend. If they vote against the motion today, they will have to explain why they voted against a motion that supports Labour policy. The irony is that the Liberal Democrats have no such compunction. As Alex Johnstone said, when Nicol Stephen appeared on prime-time television last night, he was billed as the Deputy First Minister but he expounded Liberal Democrat policy on energy rather than Executive policy on energy. Surely Labour ministers should display the same courage.

For the avoidance of doubt, I point out that the Conservatives are not obsessed with new nuclear power stations. We support a mixed approach. Our motion refers to that—it mentions clean coal technology, oil and gas and renewables. We heard a little—although not enough—about clean coal technology and the opportunities that arise from it. To be fair, the minister mentioned it in both his contributions. There is tremendous potential to develop clean coal technology, which will involve both co-firing it with biomass and developing new technology to allow carbon capture and sequestration.

Those of us who were in Perth on Monday to attend the presentation that was arranged by Scottish Enterprise and Scottish and Southern Energy heard Mitsui Babcock talking about technology that is being developed that will enable us to use our ample coal reserves in Scotland. We could still burn coal but do so in an environmentally friendly way. It is exciting that Scotland is potentially the world leader in that technology. With a bit of investment and encouragement from Government, we could build an industry that not only meets our energy needs but creates a new industry for Scotland in which we are world leaders. I was delighted to hear the minister say in his closing remarks that the Executive is considering supporting that technology.

We also need to consider renewables. We welcome the developments in offshore technologies such as wave power and tidal power, but we must recognise that it will be many years before they can make a major contribution to energy production. That does not mean that we should not develop them, but we must have realistic expectations. I make no apology for saying that we have serious reservations about large-scale onshore wind developments because of the problem of intermittency of supply.

Jeremy Purvis talked about the cost of new nuclear power stations and said that they would have to be subsidised. However, the fact is that the most subsidised form of energy production is onshore wind. Nobody would be building a single wind farm anywhere in the country if it were not for the large subsidies that are put into that method of production. Let us not hear any lessons about the cost of nuclear power from those who are pro-renewables.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

Does the member accept that the £76 billion cost of decommissioning current nuclear power stations is a subsidy? Does he agree that that sum is considerably larger than any other energy subsidy?

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

All I can do is refer Mr Ballance to the comments of Professor David Simpson of the David Hume Institute who, in a paper that he produced in April 2004, calculated that—even including the cost of decommissioning—nuclear power is two and a half times cheaper than wind power. I can do no better than refer to that expert.

As we know, the problem with onshore wind power is the proliferation of planning applications all over Scotland. We have a ridiculous free-for-all that needs to be addressed through a review of our planning system. Communities up and down the country are under siege from planning applications. Unless we stop this madness and start considering realistic alternatives, we will be in danger of doing untold damage to our landscape and—more important—to our vital tourism industry. The SNP may want us to become Europe's giant wind farm, but we reject that ambition, as do many communities in Scotland.

A new consensus is building on energy. The BBC poll to which many members referred did not just say that people oppose nuclear power; when people were asked whether they would support new nuclear power stations if they stopped Scotland depending on imported energy, 54 per cent said that they would. We know about all the caveats that apply to opinion polls, but even that poll showed that people would support new nuclear power stations in some circumstances.

We can forgive the Greens their head-in-the-sand approach and we expect no better from the Scottish National Party. To be frank, the Lib Dems should know better, and we know that Labour knows better. There is a majority in the Parliament for more nuclear power—we and Labour members support it. Surely it is time for Labour MSPs to stop the Lib Dem tail wagging the Labour dog. They should ditch the sordid coalition fudge on energy and join us tonight in voting for what we know they believe in.